Western media report with some glee on the way some Kazakhstani officials respond to Borat and his new movie, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
In the west, we may wonder why they are so sensitive and don’t take it as an opportunity for playing along and use it for some healthy self-promotion. So there is obviously a cultural element here.
But this is also a good reminder of projections. When somebody see me in a certain way, either seriously or as a joke, can I find it in myself? It is most likely here, the only question is whether I have noticed it and welcomed it.
Say I try to hold onto a particular, exclusive, narrow, and by necessity precarious identity. If something comes along, either from myself or the rest of the world, that does not seem to fit with this identity, I will be defensive. I will try different strategies to maintain my identity, either by ignoring it, interpreting it a certain way, making a joke out of it, or argue against it.
But if my identity is more porous, inclusive, broad and lightly held, then there is more room to welcome it in. Whatever comes along, I can ask can I find it in myself? Most likely, the answer is yes, I can. Whatever it is, I can certainly find it in myself.
In this case, when am I from Kazakhstan? How is the way I see these Kazakhstani officials a mirror of what is going on right here? If I see them as taking themselves too seriously, maybe that is exactly what I do right now in exploring this… Not difficult to find (!)
So one way to look at this is culture: what do my culture see as appropriate? Another is projections: can I find it in myself?
Ethnocentric and worldcentric
Yet another way to look at it is through levels of development. If I live from a certain flavor of the ethnocentric view, I am likely to not see the humour in it when somebody makes fun of my (glorious) country. If I live from a more worldcentric view, it is OK. I don’t take it so seriously. I can even appreciate the humour in it.
Projections and development
It seems that there is a close relationship between (a) working with projections and (b) development from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric views (cognitive) and circles of concern (empathy, compassion, ethics).
If my identity is narrow and exclusive, then the area that does not fit into this identity is larger and denser. There are more blind projections going on. And I am more likely to act from egocentric and ethnocentric levels. I can see myself in only a few others. Or I can see others as me, in only a limited way.
As my identity becomes wider, broader, deeper, more inclusive and is held more lightly, the areas that do not fit shrink (although still there, as long as there is any identity). There are fewer blind projections. (There are still projections, but I am more aware of more of them, and can take them into account when I choose and act.) And I am more likely to act from various degrees of a worldcentric view. I can find myself in others, and in more and more of the others: all human beings, all species, ecosystems, the Earth, Existence as a whole.